The Pregnant Dental Hygienist

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Dental hygiene is dominated by women, and because of this, you are more than likely going to encounter an office pregnancy. This exciting time in your life may prompt a few questions such as, how can you stay comfortable before and after delivering a healthy baby? You may wonder if you will be able to keep up with the patient flow in the office. Finally, you may find yourself contemplating what options there are for when it’s time for your little one to arrive.

One of the most important things is that you are comfortable; things that may not have mattered before may become very important. Take the size of your workspace, chair, and even your regularly scheduled lunch, for example. While pregnant, you will gain weight, and your operatory needs to be big enough for you to move around with ease. It is also important for your dental chair to be comfortable and offer support. Personally, I love saddle stools. I have temped in plenty of offices where the dentist was the only one who had a sturdy, comfortable chair. Luckily for me, when I was pregnant with my son, the dentist was kind enough to buy me a brand new chair to ensure my comfort.

Something else you may be thinking about is whether or not you are breastfeeding, and if you are, how will you ever find the time or privacy to do so while at work? Most offices will provide a private area. When the dentist makes those kinds of accommodations for you, that’s how you know you’re in an office that appreciates you.

Finally, and most importantly, is your lunch break. The one thing that can ensure the day goes well is making sure everyone gets a lunch. No mother-to-be wants to be hungry during the day, and no hygienist wants their stomach growling in front of patients.

Ensuring patient flow is kept up, and the location of your room go hand in hand. While this is something that may seem unimportant, the distance from your room to the restroom will play a big part in your personal comfort and keeping up with the patient flow. I have worked in several offices that gave a pregnant employee the opportunity to move closer to the restroom. It is important to regularly address these topics with your dentist as they will be happy to make these small accommodations for you because they value the care that you provide to the patients.

It is also helpful if your the dental staff is willing to support you, especially when you need a break; for instance, if they are willing to expose your patients’ radiographs, seat your patients, or lend a helping hand in any way they can. A dependable staff is the only way to make the day run smoothly. I remember being in an office where both assistants were pregnant. The dentist hired an extra assistant because he wanted to make sure they weren’t too stressed out during their pregnancies. Just one small adjustment can make the day fly by with ease.

So what happens when it’s time for your little one to arrive? There are a lot of questions to be answered, and you should think about your options as soon as possible. If possible, you should schedule an appointment with your HR department/office manager/boss to discuss your rights as a pregnant employee. Does your office offer maternity leave or short-term disability? Will they be willing to hold your job until you get back? If they do, how long of maternity leave will you take, and when you return, will it be part or full-time? It is important to remember every family’s needs are different and there are no wrong decisions; just keep in mind that your co-workers will be excitedly waiting to see new baby pictures.

Pregnant employees, patients, and wives all deserve special attention. It is important for a mother-to-be to know her rights as a pregnant employee and to have a comfortable and happy pregnancy while in the workplace. It is integral for everyone to help out and make the workday flow easily. Most importantly, many mothers do want to return to work and should feel comfortable doing so.

SEE ALSO: 4 Ways Pregnancy Affects Oral Health

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Ethel Hagans, RDH, MBA
Ethel Hagans, RDH, MBA, is passionate about giving back to the industry that has given her so much throughout her career. The genesis of which started in Germany, where she worked to develop a simple, yet effective, hygiene program for U.S. troops stationed there. She delivers insightful, home-hitting articles read by dental professionals worldwide. Her book, Motivating Dental Solutions, and articles have been featured in RDH Magazine, Dentistry IQ, and Modern Hygienist. She is a regular contributor on topics relating to, providing quality, not quantity, patient care. Ethel also volunteers for many charitable dental events, including North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NC MOM). For well over 27 years, Ethel has inspired her patients to improve their oral conditions and made it her mission to, “Make sure their pearly whites make it through those pearly gates.” Ethel’s book can be purchased at and she can be contacted through her website